Republicans split on splicing California

Republican lawmakers in Congress are lukewarm on a conservative-backed proposal to split California into six states. 

Republicans from the Golden State say they are watching conservative venture capitalist Tim Draper's effort with "great interest." But few are endorsing it. 

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Draper is attempting to get his plan on the November ballot. It has attracted support from the right, including conservative radio host Mark Levin. 

In a recent survey of the California congressional delegation, The Hill found that Democrats oppose the proposition, while Republicans are generally divided.

While California GOP lawmakers agree that the most populous state in the U.S. is "ungovernable" as is, they would prefer to consider a more conservative division of the state. 

Asked if he supported Draper's six-state split proposal, Northern California freshman Rep. Doug LaMalfa told The HIll, "I commend (Draper) for looking at different ideas, I would think that if you are going to divide California, it's ambitious to do three states or just two." 

LaMalfa explained that his constituents, primarily farmers and ranchers, have different needs than the "urban reactionaries" in San Francisco and Los Angeles. 

"A lot of the people in Northern California and parts of Oregon have decided that we are not on the same page as San Francisco and Portland and Los Angeles," said LaMalfa.

He added, however, "I don't know if six states is a solution because is Washington, D.C. and the rest of the country really going to give California 10 new senators?"

HIs fellow rural district-based Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) refrained from endorsing the six-state divide, but pointed out that "many say our state is ungovernable today so dividing up into states would be something to look at." 

The last Republican to represent California was Pete Wilson, who was first elected in 1982 and reelected in 1988.

Only two California GOP lawmakers support Draper's proposition. 

Southern California-based Reps. John Campbell and Dana Rohrabacher said they would back the proposition if Draper is able to garner the 807,000 signatures needed by July to qualify for the November ballot. 

Both GOP lawmakers agreed that a state that could rank as the world's 34th largest independent country needs to be divided so that local interests of constituents can be managed more effectively. 

"I strongly favor it because I think at this point a message needs to be sent that the people of the state will be better served if they are in a smaller jurisdiction in which they can have more effective influence on what happens," Campbell told The Hill. 

Draper, a registered Republican Silicon Valley tycoon, has backed "Six Californias" because he believes that California is too big and too diverse to govern effectively. 

At least one GOP lawmaker disputed that argument. 

“Lately, (California) has been flirting with the same policies that destroyed Detroit, but time and experience will cure it of that,” Sacramento-based GOP Rep. Tom McClintock said. 

“I think it would be far more productive if the public policy debate focused on restoring prosperity to a grossly over-taxed and over-regulated state.”

Golden State Democrats oppose Draper's proposal.

Of the 21 who responded, 12 said they are against the plan, including both Sens. Barbara Boxer (D) and Dianne Feinstein (D). 

“Periodically, someone says ‘break up California’ but when seriously considered, the negatives outweigh the positives,” Feinstein told The Hill.

Central Valley-based Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney charged his GOP colleagues with wanting to "Balkanize" the state, and "adamantly" opposed the idea. 

Rep. Jackie Speier (D) said that while she doesn’t support the six-state plan because it is “too cost prohibitive to replicate all the bureaucracy,” she thinks the plan has some merit. She points to the seeming lack of equity for California in the federal government. California gives up to $50 billion to the federal government annually and has a population greater than that of 20 bottom states combined, she said.

“There needs to be some fairness in how fed dollars are divvied up,” Speier said.  “Just look at the Farm Bill, California gets very little even though it is number one in cash farm receipts in the country. There's a large group in Washington that have an 'anywhere but California' attitude and it's harmful to the state.”

Seven lawmakers, six Republican and one Democrat, said they had not formulated an opinion yet on Draper’s plan, or had no comment.

If the matter lands on the referendum ballot and wins, the governor would have to submit a request to Congress. 

Both chambers of Congress would have to approve the plan. 

California political expert Marc Sandalow said that "it's never going to happen." 

Sandalow, a former San Francisco Chronicle reporter who teaches journalism at the University of California's Washington, D.C. Center, told The Hill that without assurances that increasing the states wouldn't affect the political representation in the Senate, Congress would not touch the proposition. 

Even those lawmakers who support dividing the state said it would be difficult for Congress to approve. Campbell said, "I'm not sure that this proposal can ever actually come to fruition, including approval by Congress."

 

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